Located at various positions around Road’s cannon were 5 wetbacks from Meh-hee-ko.
This was Poncho and his pals.
Poncho was the sharp hombre who’d slow danced so close with Mary the night before. He had also slept that one cold night in the back room of the gas station in the hills. With him that night had been Memo, who was taller, and lean and strong.
Memo, at the moment, stepped back from the cannon’s snout, with the ramming stick at rest in his hands.
A 13 year old boy, Cid, stood at the rear of the cannon, waiting patiently like the man he consistently strained to be, had to be, if he was to survive the hard life cut out for him on the Ramona valley egg ranch above the border where he worked long hours. Once he had the money Road was going to pay him, he no longer would have to work these long hours ~ not for a few years anyway. He lived below the border.
At the moment he had an unlit stick match in his hand that shook slightly and was poised next to the cannon’s fuse. Thus the need for patience.
This 13 year old wetback was also lean ~ due to hard work and the absence of luxuries like over eating.
Juan, 23 years old, the oldest of Poncho’s pals, stood on the other side of the cannon from Memo. The cannon was, of course, aimed bold and awesome at the church’s front door.
Juan also worked at the egg ranch ~ and lived in Mexico. He drove himself and little Cid to Ramona and back 6 days a week, in an old ’38 Dodge pick-up truck ~ painted black. Juan also could take a long boner of a vacation when paid by Road.
Scattered on the street below the cannon’s muzzle were numerous empty rice boxes. One empty rice box was still in Juan’s hand. This box had been the last one to have its contents spilled down the cannon’s barrel.
On their way to the wedding, Road had stopped at a big grocery store in San Diego on the corner of College Avenue and El Gringo Boulevard, had bought all the boxes of rice on the shelf. There was a lot of rice in Road’s cannon ~ for Tulip’s wedding.
Road had also bought a quart bottle of whiskey and a box of cigars at the liquor store across the boulevard from the grocery store.
As for the illegal aliens (or wetbacks), Road had picked them up at the end of the dirt road he turned down while traveling Highway 94 ~ a preconceived plan. Poncho and his pals had hiked a short trail from Mexico to the rendezvous spot.
Poncho, by the way, had learned some English in Tijuana since he’d last seen Road a few weeks earlier at the Mobil gas station ~ thus piece by piece with a lot missing out he was able to tell Road about the 12 cannons in Pedro Mendez’s abandoned garlic mine.
Pedro Mendez was Poncho’s uncle.
And Poncho, at the moment, was sitting in the driver’s seat of Road’s truck, which was idling.
Road’s cannon had a cannon crew. And Road’s cannon was aimed at the big brick church’s opened double front door out of which Tulip and he had exited. When all the other people came running out after Road and Tulip, Road yelled, “Ole!”
That was the signal for little half smiling, half sneering Cid to strike his match. So he struck it across the round top of the cannon and set what flame he had to the cannon’s fuse ~ and stepped back with his ears plugged.
Poncho gunned the truck’s engine.
Road hopped into the cab, dragged Tulip with him.
The people charged.
Rice explosively bloomed out of the cannon’s mouth ~ a forceful dry splash of wedding cheer!
The boom was so loud that the windshield in Road’s truck cracked.
Some of the charging wedding goers (or leavers) ducked. Others fell over. The rest bravely accepted the stingy wedding cheer in their faces. One young man fainted. Many lay on the ground afraid to open their eyes, thinking they might be dead. Only one person was shot incurably blind by the rice: the mother of the bride, who could now add blindness to her woes and her crippled back.
Some people have no luck.
Memo, Juan, and Little Cid jumped into the rear of the truck, thru the rear doors ~ and the 5th crew man, a Mexican whose name was, yes, San Diego, bolted the doors shut from the inside as driver Poncho punched the truck smokey down the street.
Tulip raised a quizzical glance at Road, as he peered at the rear view mirror. Tulip had just heard him say softly, maybe even reverently, “Dominus Vobiscum.”
That’s Catholic latin for, “The Lord be with you.”
the short novel